Pupils as young as ELEVEN being given advice on how to quit smokingThis is despite the legal smoking age in the UK being 16
Health charity welcomes the move but says school must also offer preventative classes
13:10 GMT, 21 March 2012
Controversial: Honywood Community Science School in Coggeshall, Essex is offering counselling and advice on quitting smoking to pupils aged just 11. This picture is posed by models
A school is offering counselling and advice on quitting smoking to pupils aged just 11.
Honywood Community Science School in Coggeshall, Essex has introduced the classes aimed at helping the youngsters quit the habit.
The children, who are in just their first year of secondary school, are also offered time with the school’s nurses and health professionals.
This is despite the legal smoking age in the UK being 16 and people needing to be 18 before they can buy cigarettes.
The move by the school comes after Cancer Research UK revealed recently that almost 160,000 children start smoking every year in the UK – enough to fill around 5,200 classrooms.
The charity said
eight out of 10 people start smoking before they are 19 and more must be
done to prevent youngsters starting.
It follows revelations last November that Grenoside Community Primary in Sheffield was facing a parents’ revolt over the content of sex education classes for children as young as four.
Headteacher of Honywood Community Science School Simon Mason claims that the 'quit smoking' classes will make youngsters realise that the habit will create its own challenges when they leave school.
He said: 'We need to make sure we understand the pressures that young children are under.
'We take smoking very seriously here.
'In the real world of work there are now very few places where smokers can go to smoke and the children need to understand that this is the world that they will be going into.'
Time to act: Honywood Community Science School's quitting classes are available to all pupils, with parents also invited to come into the school to discuss the issues
The quitting classes are available to all pupils, with parents also invited to come into the school to discuss the issues.
Mr Mason added: 'We held a night where we invited parents in and it was so successful with people coming back for more information that we held another one.
'The idea now is to offer one evening every year to try to help as much as we possibly can.'
Last month, Cancer Research UK said 157,000 children aged 11 to 15 take up the habit every year.
The data refers to the proportion of children in an age group who were smoking a year after first saying they were smokers.
Almost a million under-15s – more than a quarter (27 per cent) of all children – have tried smoking at least once.
Among 12-year-olds alone, 1 per cent were smoking regularly in 2009, another 2 per cent smoked occasionally and 2 per cent said they used to smoke.
Concern: Grenoside Primary in Sheffield, where
families were said to be prepared to withdraw youngsters because of concerns about sex education classes
A year later in 2010, as 13-year-olds, 3 per cent of children smoked regularly, 2 per cent smoked occasionally and 4 per cent used to smoke.
Amanda Sandford, of ASH – action on smoking and health – welcomed the move by the school, but said it was also important to have preventative classes to stop children from smoking in the first place.
She said: 'I think that if they have identified a need then that seems to be a perfectly reasonable line to take.
'At the age of 11 there will be few regular smokers, nationally the figure is about 1 per cent for that age, but there may be one or two and if they can be helped to stop at that age then there is a good chance they will not become regular smokers and become addicted.'
However, she added: 'It is also important that children receive quality education about the dangers of smoking.'
In November last year, up to 20 families were said to be prepared to withdraw youngsters from sex education lessons at Grenoside Community Primary in Sheffield.
It was because of concerns they are being sexualised too soon with discussions about homosexuality, masturbation and orgasms.
Under the plans, children as young as four would be given sex education classes and those aged six could be taught about same-sex relationships and the difference between ‘good and bad touching’.